There are many reasons why people stay in an unhealthy relationship. Some don’t recognize or aren’t willing to accept that the relationship is unhealthy, or they are fearful or lack the inner strength to leave. Or, they believe that they can change their partner and things will improve. The sad truth is that unhealthy relationships rarely get better; instead, they get progressively worse, leaving scars that are difficult to recover from.
Warning Signs to Watch Out For
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It’s easy to see the warning signs of an unhealthy relationship, if you know what to look for. First, anything that makes you feel uncomfortable or fearful is a clear red flag. It’s a given that if someone is abusing alcohol or drugs the relationship will be unhealthy, but there are many other warning signs that you should be aware of. If you see any of these signs, get out fast.
Any behavior that is aggressive is unhealthy, but actual physical abuse is just one type of aggressive behavior. Any type of physical force is unhealthy—not only hitting or slapping, but pushing, and grabbing as well. Cruel behavior toward other people or animals is a sign of aggressiveness, as are displays of anger that involve hitting, kicking, or throwing objects. Any time you feel frightened or intimidated in a relationship, it’s time to get out.
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Any type of imbalance of power or controlling behavior in a relationship is unhealthy. Any time one person views the other as unequal or inferior, there is an imbalance of power. Often in a controlling relationship, the other person expects you to conform to their expectations of how you should look and behave. They may justify their behavior by claiming they are only trying to help you make good decisions or that they know what’s best for you, but’s it’s really not about what’s best for you—it’s about their need for control. They may go so far as to secretly check your text messages, phone calls, and email to monitor your activity. A sure red flag for controlling behavior is when you feel inferior or that you have no power to make your own decisions.
Possessive behavior may take the form of jealousy or imposed isolation. They will tell you that it’s just that they love you so much and worry about you, but possessiveness is not about love, it’s about a lack of trust. They may lie or make excuses to prevent you from spending time with other people, like by saying they are sick, or by manufacturing a crisis, for example. They may even call or drop by unexpectedly to “check up on you.” At first, this behavior might feel like intense love, but that’s not love, that’s stalking.